By MARGIE TRAX PAGE

Staff Writer

mtrax@starbeacon.com



AUSTINBURG TOWNSHIP - - Corey Howe had one thing on his mind as he climbed a greased pole Sunday afternoon at Austinburg Country Days: $40.

That prize money stuck in the Ashtabula man's mind as he slipped, slid and nearly fell while climbing the pole. He tied his shirt and his socks around the pole for grip. Muscles straining, Howe used his leather belt as a foothold and snatched the paper at the top of the pole to win the competition.

Howe walked away from the contest with considerably less clothing, some skinned shins and $40.

"I have tried to win this for a couple of years, and this year I decided that I wasn't leaving until I got this piece of paper," Howe said.

Out of 15 male contestants, Howe was the only one to reach the top of the pole.

"We start out by letting the guys use only their hands and feet to get to the top, but that is pretty much impossible to do. Then we tell them they can use any article of clothing they have on them as hand and footholds," Country Days volunteer Ted Wilms said.

Country Days vice president Barb Schaab said fair weather and a few new attractions made this year successful for the festival.

"The new dunk tank was very popular; the Geneva Cross-Country Team did a great job with it," she said.

The Ashtabula County Council on Aging stole the show during Saturday's traditional parade, Schaab said.

Geneva High School senior Lara Heinz was named the country maiden and Winnie Cerbin was named the country elder.

The Geneva Image and the Geneva High School Jazz Band performed Sunday and a frog-jumping contest, yard games and a horseshoe pitching competition rounded out the day. The popular bed races and the slow-bike race for children finished the competitions. The Blues Project and the raffle drawing and flag lowering closed the 2006 festival.

All proceeds from Austinburg Country Days go directly to the community. During the last few years, the committee donated playground equipment, picnic tables and scholarship money within Austinburg Township, Schaab said.

Jeremy Nelson, 6, of Madison, and his cousin Megan Lynch, 4, of Ashtabula, enjoyed their day at the festival. Megan wanted to bring her pony-ride pal Ginger home with her to share Popsicles. Jeremy was unimpressed with the organized events and preferred the swings at the park.

Megan was impressed by the Austinburg Township Volunteer Fire Department.

"I learned about fire safety today," Megan said. "You know: Stop, drop and roll," she said.

Star Beacon Print Edition: 9/11/2006



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